End of the world not nearly nigh

MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012
tarris may
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
TARRIS MAY: "... if it happens, I guess we won't really know about it, will we?"
bryan mcnally
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
BRYAN MCNALLY: "It can't [happen], because I'm working the next day."
mike keys
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
MIKE KEYS: "You can put your washing out."
joanne smith
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
JOANNE SMITH: "I'm convinced we'll still be here next week - I'm very optimistic."

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By now, you'll have heard that the world is ending tomorrow. Except it's really probably not.

The planet will continue to exist past December 21, 2012, according to the scientific community in New Zealand, and everywhere else.

The US space agency Nasa has devoted an entire page of its website to a Q&A debunking the doomsday myth that claims tomorrow is the predetermined date when Earth will meet its demise.

That myth has circulated widely on the internet for years. It has its roots partly in the cycle of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, which comes to the end of a period this month.

That doesn't mean the Mayans thought the world was going to end on December 21, 2012, according to Nasa. That simply means one calendar period ends and a new one begins, the same as changing over a modern calendar after December 31.

This myth is the latest in a long series of doomsday predictions stretching back through human history - and all, so far, have been false, pointed out Matthew Dentith, a University of Auckland faculty member who wrote his PhD thesis on the understanding and evaluation of conspiracy theories.

"Given the poor track record of doomsday predictions in general. . . the 21st of December 2012, is likely to be as interesting as the 21st of December 2011, or indeed, any random day of the year," he said.

There have been at least 100 internationally recognisable "doomsdays" predicted since the year 2000, said Victoria University associate professor Marc Wilson.

For those who buy in to these theories, confronting the day after doomsday can be a very uncomfortable proposition, he said. Disappointed believers tend to rationalise their beliefs in a number of ways, including seeking flaws in "evidence" to explain why things didn't go as they expected.

"I have no doubt that if something vaguely doomsday-ish happens on the 21st, some people will claim that as evidence," Mr Wilson said. "Ken Ring predicted a massive quake in Christchurch last year that didn't actually happen, but a smaller 4.0 did, and that was then used as evidence that the prediction was right but the scale was wrong."

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For a very thorough debunking of the December 21, 2012 apocalypse myth, go to www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html.

YOUR VIEWS

The Herald took to the streets of Timaru yesterday to ask people what they thought about the world ending tomorrow.

Tarris May, Timaru: "I hope it doesn’t happen. But if it happens, I guess we won't really know about it, will we?"

Bryan McNally, Timaru: "No, I don’t actually believe it’s going to happen. It can't do, because I'm working the next day."

Mike Keys, St Andrews: "I'm quite convinced it’s not going to happen. You can put your washing out. The sun will dawn on a new day."

Joanne Smith, Timaru: "I don't really believe it, no. I'm convinced we'll still be here next week. I'm very optimistic."

Maddie Lysaght, Timaru: "I think the world is going to end. I've just been hanging out with a lot of my friends and family, just to make the most of my last few days."

Maia Wetere, Timaru: "I think it's a crazy idea. It's so stupid that it messes with people's minds."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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